Publicado: Sol, Marcha 17, 2019
Global | Por Milagro Delgado

Fresh clashes as France's yellow vests seek new momentum

Fresh clashes as France's yellow vests seek new momentum

One perilous fire targeted a bank on the ground floor of a seven-storey residential building.

Bonfires were started in nearby streets, with at least one auto in flames.

And the number of yellow vest protesters remains smaller than early in the movement, when it drew masses to the streets nationwide and polled showed a majority of French people supporting their cause. French police tried to contain the demonstrators with repeated volleys of tear gas and water cannon, with limited success. Eleven people, including two fire fighters, suffered minor injuries, a spokesman told the AFP news agency.

A Yellow Vest protester holds up a placard reading "In tribute to the Yellow Vests protesters that have died and been wounded since 17.11.18" on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on March 16, 2019, during the 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations called by the "Yellow Vest" (gilets jaunes) movement.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that more than 1400 police officers had been mobilised and police said they had arrested more than 80 protesters by mid-afternoon.

Protesters are angry over high taxes and Macron policies seen as coddling business.

"Macron, we're coming to get you at home", some of the protesters chanted, referring to the presidential palace situated near the Champs-Elysees.

Protest organizers had hoped to make a splash Saturday, which marks the 4-month anniversary of the yellow vest movement, which started November 17, and the end of the "Great Debate" that the French president organized to respond to protesters' concerns about sinking living standards, stagnant wages and high unemployment.

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The yellow vest movement has faced accusations of anti-Semitism in recent weeks after a prominent Jewish philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, was targeted by insults and taunts in Paris.

Black-clad demonstrators encircled the square surrounding the arch, pelting the police with stones. "He also said the crowd included 1,500 'ultraviolent ones who are there to smash things up, '" the AP reported.

A statement from his office said he would attend a crisis meeting on the violence at the interior ministry later Saturday.

From early morning protesters began pouring into the capital by train and vehicle from around the country for what they called an "ultimatum" to Macron. Police closed down several streets and fanned out around the Right Bank.

The protests began over fuel tax rises but have since developed into a broader revolt against perceived elitism. He has loosened the state's purse strings to the tune of 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion) to try defuse the protests.

He also travelled the length and breadth of the country, engaging in marathon debates with local politicians and voters.

But the measures failed to quell the anger of the demonstrators, who accuse the former investment banker of being elitist and favouring the rich. Bracing for a potential uptick in protester numbers and violence, the French capital deployed more police Saturday than in previous weekends. At Bordeaux, in the southwest, police clashed with protesters and a bank was damaged.

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